Super PACs 

The 11th hour cash-dash

The polls have closed, the elections are over and we know by now who won and who lost. But in the weeks leading up to Nov. 6, candidates weren't the only ones scrambling to get their messages out. The latter half of October bore witness to a disconcerting nationwide trend—one that manifested itself, predictably, in Montana's Senate race.

A host of brand-spanking-new super PACs began appearing on independent expenditure reports in mid-October. One of those groups, the ambiguously named Freedom Fund North America, formed on Oct. 15. Eleven days later, it reported a $495,000 expenditure for advertising opposing incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. By delaying its first cash drops until Oct. 26, the group successfully dodged the final donor reporting deadline on Oct. 25.

In other words, while the outcome of the race has been determined, voters won't know until Dec. 6 where Freedom Fund North America got its money. Tester wasn't the only candidate the super PAC targeted. It spent $247,500 on advertising opposing Democratic Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and spent an equal amount supporting her opponent, Republican Rick Berg. Both expenditures were reported the exact same day as the Tester ad buy—Oct. 26.

There were early indications of this 11th hour cash-dash. The super PAC Fair Share Action emerged in mid-September and began spending hundreds of thousands of dollars knocking on doors in support of President Barack Obama and other Democrats nationwide. But a bulk of the group's spending, including a $119,000 pro-Tester ad buy in Montana, came late in the game. Fair Share Action only began airing ads on Oct. 31.

Fair Share Action is actually the sister super PAC of Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) Fair Share Alliance. The pro-Democrat nonprofit is headed by Brad Martin, who served as the executive director of the Montana Democratic Party for 12 years before joining the Democratic National Committee. Unlike Freedom Fund North America, Fair Share Action did disclose $1.1 million in contributions before the election. However, it spent an additional $1.3 million after the October quarterly deadline—donations that, again, will remain essentially anonymous until next month.

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